Natchez, Mississippi native heads to Botswana on Peace Corps HIV/AIDS initiative
by Impact Wire Sunday, August 11, 2013
For the Local News desk:
A Natchez native, Bettina S. Barillas is headed to Botswana to assist the southern African country in its efforts to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS. She was selected among competitors to represent the United States as a Peace Corps volunteer and will depart on August 12. She will join several other volunteers, having already begun learning the local language. Bettina is expected to work in the area of public health administration and education there.
Bettina graduated from the John Glenn School of Public Policy of The Ohio State University in May 2013. She is the recipient of a Master’s degree in Public Policy with a focus on economics, child development and health. While studying at OSU, Bettina worked at the OSU Recreational Center where she assisted in managing and programming of summer programs for children. She also occasionally lectured undergraduate students in subjects that included networking and program management. Before departing for Botswana, she delivered a paper at the 2013 MALCS Conference entitled ¡Aquí Estamos! / We Are Here! Movements, Migrations, Pilgrimage and Belonging, which was held on the OSU campus. She discussed her findings from research conducted in Spain in 2012 in a presentation entitled, "Us vs. Them: A Qualitative Analysis of Spanish Perceptions of the Immigrant Outsider."
Speaking candidly, Bettina spoke of her motivations for entering national service. “While I was young, I remember living and interacting with some of the poorest people and rather than seeing hopelessness, I saw a joy for life that gave me an appreciation for different peoples and their cultures. Looking back, I now realize that my parents’ insistence of working for and beside migrant farm laborers in the rural U.S. south opened my eyes and inspired me to learn more about the lives of others, outside of my comfortable middle class bubble.”
Bettina was the recipient of numerous university awards and scholarships, as well as community recognition. While studying in the Honors program towards a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Michigan-Flint, she received several monetary awards including scholarships from the UM-Flint honors program, as well as the Michigan Competitive, Michigan Promise, Flint Rotary and Chester Smith Memorial funds. She also volunteered as a site leader for an Alternative Spring Break at a school for special-needs children. She was quoted at the time as saying “I have a passion for volunteering and helping our community, in whatever way that may be. I just want to spread that sense of compassion to our campus and hope it catches on.”
In addition to her full-time studies at UM-Flint, Bettina worked at the university recreational center, where she developed and managed a day-camp program for disadvantaged children. She also served as a university intern at the American Red Cross. In recognition of her community service, UM-Flint awarded her with the Dr. Charlie Nelms Community Contribution Award. She also received recognition for the American G.I. Forum, a national veteran's organization, for her academic achievements and community service.
While in high school, Bettina volunteered at a Bible camp for disadvantaged children of Genesee County MI, and also achieved a Red Cross Swimming Instructor badge. While living in Natchez, she attended Cathedral School. Her parents, Alice and Martin Barillas, and siblings Mariana, Guillermo and Daniel of Flushing MI, her grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Robert H. Barnes Jr. of Natchez, Mississippi, and Mrs. Caroline M. Barillas of Chelsea MI, as well as her other relatives and friends join Bettina in celebrating her accomplishments and the beginning of a new phase of work that will carry her to a new continent.
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